Dodransbicentenary of La Martiniere College Lucknow – 175 years of imparting education and setting many benchmarks.
La Martiniere College Lucknow built in 1800 is one of the oldest educational institutions in India and of course oldest in Lucknow.
In continuation with the bequest of its visionary Major General Claude Martin, this great institution completed 175 years of imparting education on 1st October 2020. It was in the year 1845 that the first classes commenced here.
During its long existence as an educational institution, the college has seen couple of ups and downs without hampering the development of its pupils in any form – the two pandemics, the Spanish flu in 1918 and currently witnessing Covid-19 in 2020, the great uprising of 1857, the two World Wars, India’s freedom struggle and the subsequent partition of India and further the Indo-Pak wars, Indo-China war and all the wars thereafter.
La Martiniere estate spread over seven hundred acres is home to over three thousand children currently plus resident Principal, teachers, administrative staff and support staff. Though, horses, goats, cows and hens should also be counted among the residents of La Martiniere.
With the vision of Major General Claude Martin, a young Frenchman who sailed from Lyon in France to India in 1752 and continued his military carrier alongside his various business interests was a multi tasking personality. He had mentioned in his will that his much adored palace named Constantia be converted into a school to impart quality education after his death.
After Claude Martin’s demise on 13 September 1800, there were series of court appeals before the will finally came into effect and the case was examined by the Nawab of Oudh, the British Resident of Lucknow, the Supreme Court in Calcutta and the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. On 21 December 1840 a resolution was passed by the Supreme Court for establishment of the proposed school and it took another five years for it to have the infrastructure in place to be able to start education here. As per the verdict of the court, the first enrollments were done on 13 September 1845 and the new Principal of the college, John Newmarch took his offices on 23rd day of September 1845 to start the teaching finally on 1 October 1845.
Initially there were some one hundred and fifty boys admitted including Europeans and Eurasians along with native boys both constituting both Hindus and Muslims.
There were two schools well demarcated in the same compound. The Europeans studied in the north wing and the school for the natives was in the South Wing. Both these wings had different syllabus as well as different teachers along with other settings.
Indian Uprising of 1857 and La Martiniere
During the uprising of 1857, on the order of Sir Henry Lawrence, the British Resident in Lucknow, the then Principal George Schilling assisted the evacuation of over sixty boys and some four resident scholars to the British Residency along with minimal provisions.
On reaching the Residency the boys and staff were shifted to a house inside the Residency. This house belonged to a local banker Shah Behari Lal and this area came to be called as the Martiniere Post. Though there were several close, near death encounters but none of the boys or the members of staff died in the mutiny until its evacuation in November 1858.
After the residency was freed from the rebel forces the entire school, along with the staff members was shifted temporarily to Benaras (now called Varanasi) on boat which covered a route from Cawnpore (now Kanpur) travelling through Allahabad (now Prayagraj). The school operated from a rented Bungalow till March 1859. The Indian boys were shifted out of the compound to the older part of Lucknow called Hussainabad, where the school was operated till around 1870. La Martiniere College was decorated with the Battle Honours in recognistion of La Martiniere’s valiant role in the Indian uprising of 1857.
La Martiniere and the two World Wars
During the World War I, La Martiniere’s Principal Lieutenant Thomas Percival Wood (1910-15) gave his services and was killed in action in France. His commemorative plaque adorns the Neuvre-Chapellle in France as also the College Chapel.
Lieutenant Colonel William Edgar Andrews was one Principal who joined La Martiniere in 1926 and served during the British Rule through India’s independence. He saw India become a republic and witnessed the adoption of the Constitution of India till his term ended in 1951.During his tenure the college also witnessed World War II.
Gallant boys, heroes of the wars
The tradition of bravery in La Martiniere continued even after 1857 and the boys of the college have been decorated with 8 Veer Chakras, 1 Shaurya Chakra and 2 Mahaveer Chakras in different wars thereafter.
On the occasion of India’s first Republic Day in 1950, two boys of the college, Fg Offr D.O. Barty and Fg Offr D.E. Pushong, were honoured for their bravery in Jammu and Kashmir region.
Air Marshal Denzil Keelor, the great veteran of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 was an alumnus of La Martiniere. He has been decorated with the Vir Chakra, the Param Vishisht Sewa Medal, the Kirti Chakra and the Ati Vishisht Sewa Medal. Read more about La Martiniere